Identifying raptors (birds of prey) in flight can be difficult. However, even novice hawk-watchers can figure out which family a raptor belongs to. Most raptors migrating past this hawk watch site fall into one of three families: buteos, accipiters or falcons. Each family has unique wing and tail characteristics that help the birds fly in a specific manner.
? Have long, broad wings, a chunky body and a short, fanned-out tail
? Soar for long periods without flapping their wings
? Includes the red-tailed hawk, broad-winged hawk and red-shouldered hawk
? Have long, pointed wings and a long, narrow tail
? Fly through constant, strong flapping
? Includes the American kestrel, merlin and peregrine falcon
? Have short, rounded wings and a long, narrow tail
? Move through a series of flaps and glides: flap-flap-flap-glide
? Includes the sharp-shinned hawk, cooper hawk and northern goshawk
Be a Raptor Ranger
Conduct your own hawk watch! Use your eagle eye to spot buteos, accipiters and falcons, and count how many of each family you spy.
(left) Red-tailed hawk
(center) 1: Red-tailed Hawk; Broad-winged Hawk; Red-shouldered
(upper right) 2: Peregrine Falcon; American Kestrel; Merlin
(lower right) 3: Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper Hawk; Northern Goshawk